02 May 18 The Straits Times by JOSE HONG
Visitors to Singapore splurged more on souvenirs, gifts and confectionery last year, with spending on these items jumping by 26 per cent, the Singapore Tourism Board said.
STB chief executive Lionel Yeo, who revealed the figure at the annual tourism industry conferenceearlier last month, said the board was working towards providing even more choices of these items.
He said: "We hope to delight our visitors with an even greater array of quality souvenirs and products from local brands, so that they can bring a piece of Singapore home with them."
Fourteen firms have turned to the STB's Experience Step-Up Fund to meet the growing market for unique local souvenirs, which the STB hopes can better the tourism experience.
Launched in 2015, the fund supports the creation of experiences that make Singapore more attractive to tourists. About 50 other companies have also tapped it. Successful applicants receive up to 70 per cent funding for certain costs.
The Farm Store, which sells quirky Singapore-themed items like mooncake-shaped paperweights, wanted a change.
A PIECE OF SINGAPORE
We hope to delight our visitors with an even greater array of quality souvenirs and products from local brands, so that they can bring a piece of Singapore home with them.
'' STB CHIEF EXECUTIVE LIONEL YEO, on helping companies meet the growing demand for unique local souvenirs.
Founded in 2010, it sold hundreds of products from many local designers, but made only a few of its own items, one of them being the mooncake paperweights.
But with the Experience Step-Up Fund, it was able to release its own line of cushions featuring parts of the Singapore skyline last July, and has notched up good sales figures.
Brand manager Mabel Low said The Farm Store was excited when it learnt about the Experience Step-Up Fund.
"We wanted to make more of our own products, and this was a way for us to kick-start our own designs," she said. The firm has sold around 40 per cent of its 750 cushions since launching the line.
Ms Low thinks the market for local souvenirs and gifts is growing because visitors to Singapore are seeking products that really tell what it is like to experience Singapore, rather than the usual trinkets. She added that non-Singaporeans make up around 60 per cent of The Farm Store's customers.
The growing demand for local souvenirs has not gone unnoticed by companies with long histories. Tea merchant Pek Sin Choon, founded in 1925, supplies more than 90 per cent of the tea leaves used in Singapore's bak kut teh (pork rib soup) meals.
He said that the firm received "at least $35,000" through STB's Experience Step-Up Fund last year, which helped pay for the design, prototyping, production and marketing of a new product for the mass market.
That resulted in a portable tea brewing combo set, comprising a tea box that can turn into a serving tray, five types of oolong tea and a teapot set. It weighs around 700g, and the first batch of 100 launched in January sold out in a week.
Mr Yuen estimates that 15 to 20 sets, now sold at $38 each, are sold weekly, and said the company plans to improve the product. Most of Pek Sin Choon's customers are Singaporeans, and he plans to get more foreign customers.
Asked about the demand for local souvenirs and confectioneries, Mr Yuen said: "People now are looking for something with a story and with heritage. They don't just want a product."